You’ve found the love of your life and you’re excited to spend the rest of your lives together!
The next step is deciding how to propose and find a really memorable way to pop the question when you surprise her with that ring.
As someone who’s been a professional wedding officiant for over 20 years, I’ve probably heard all variations of marriage proposal ideas and stories you can imagine.
In fact, one of the favorite questions to ask couples when we start working together during their engagement is how the proposal happened.
Along the way, I’ve learned that before you start planning any elaborate schemes, there are a few basic things to keep in mind to make the occasion special and romantic for both of you.
And please note that I’m going with the traditional boy-asks-girl scenario here, but you should, of course, feel free to adapt for your relationship.
Here are seven marriage proposal ideas and tips for how to propose in a way that makes your engagement truly unforgettable.
1. Consider your sweetie’s personality as much of your own.
Maybe you’re a major party animal, and she just loves to cuddle at home (or it could be the other way around).
Consider your mutual balance of introvert vs. extrovert energy and see if you can blend the two.
You could plan an intimate proposal, then whisk her off to a gathering of family and/or friends to celebrate together. Or start off big by creating a totally over the top flash mob proposal followed by plenty of quiet time for your own private celebration.
One of my grooms surprised his then-girlfriend with a very public proposal in a fancy restaurant and she freaked out! He requested a “do-over” and designed a sweet little moment for just the two of them a few weeks later, which she officially accepted.
They’ve been happily married for five years now.
2. Involve your families.
You can always go the uber-traditional route of asking her father for her hand in marriage.
Asking parental permission may not be as common nowadays, but it’s still a nice touch, and definitely gets you off on the right foot with your future in-laws!
Likewise, sisters and mothers can be particularly helpful with ideas for choosing engagement ring stones and styles.
You could even plan a special family gathering after you pop the question so everyone can celebrate with the two of you at a nice restaurant or with a pre-planned meal arranged at one of your family member’s homes.
Of course, going that route means a whole bunch of people will know your plans ahead of time, so be sure they can keep a secret before you get them involved.
3. Pick a memorable location.
Deciding on a proposal spot can go in a few different directions.
You could choose a place that already holds a special meaning to the two of you, like your favorite beach or the place where you had your first date.
One of my couples got engaged in Riverside Park in New York City because it’s where they always went for walks when they were getting to know each other.
Or, you could go for a place on your joint bucket list. That might mean going to a local eatery or vineyard, or going even farther away for a real destination proposal, which is all the rage now.
The time and energy you put into choosing the perfect spot will make the whole experience feel more thoughtful and romantic for both of you.
4. Create a good story to keep it a surprise.
This is probably one of the few times when it’s OK to lie to your beloved!
If you really want to surprise her, you may have to come up with some creative way to get her where you want to propose and/or to keep her from suspecting what’s coming.
Our younger son, Chris, proposed to his now-wife when we were all together on a family trip to Florida. The story he told her was that they were going out for a romantic dinner while my husband and I stayed at the resort babysitting our granddaughter so our other son and his wife could go out, too.
As soon as Chris left, we all quickly changed out of our shorts and followed them to the restaurant. We even managed to get a sneaky photo as he proposed to her on a private balcony, and then we surprised her with joyful engagement dinner celebration!
5. Prepare what you want to say in advance.
I’m all for letting your heart lead you, however, this is not the time to wing it. You certainly don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script, but it’s still a good idea to jot down some ideas beforehand.
Make notes about what she means to you, what you love about her and what you’re looking forward to over the course of your life together. Then practice your proposal out loud.
And in the excitement of the occasion, don’t forget to actually ask her to marry you!
One of my couples told me that when she realized what was happening, she jumped in and popped the question before her overly-emotional husband-to-be could get it out. There was lots of laughing and crying for both of them in that moment.
6. Be flexible.
Yes, even the best laid plans can get messed up. If you’ve envisioned an outdoor proposal and it’s pouring rain when you wake up, be sure you have an alternate inside spot picked out.
Maybe your sweetheart is feeling lousy the weekend you’ve planned your beautiful proposal getaway. As nerve-wracking as it might be, be prepared to delay your big ask a few days or even weeks so she can be fully present and enjoy the moment as much as you do.
It could also be that she’s just not in the mood for whatever cool idea you had in mind when the time arrives. My older son had lovely plans to go on a bike ride to Brooklyn Bridge Park with his now wife — a favorite activity of theirs — and propose there before heading to brunch at a new neighborhood place.
She nixed the idea of a bike ride that morning and groused about going to a new place to eat, so he ended up proposing on the stoop of their brownstone apartment building. It was just as romantic.
Then they met us at that new restaurant, as by that time, she was completely on board with going wherever he wanted to take her!
7. Plan ahead to make sure you have the right digital support.
That could be as simple as being sure you bring your fully-charged cellphone with you, ready to call your family and friends with the exciting news that she said yes.
And if it’s just the two of you, you’ll want to take that classic engagement selfie with your newly-minted fiancée flashing her engagement ring.
Depending on the kind of proposal you plan, you can also arrange for a photographer and/or a videographer to capture the moment. Your sweetie will definitely appreciate having that memento since she probably won’t remember many of the details in all the excitement!
The only hitch is figuring out a way to keep that third party hidden until you spring the question.
Whether you’re planning an elaborate proposal or a private little moment in your backyard, you want to be sure all goes smoothly with a minimum of stress.
Take the time to consider all these very basic tips, right along with your romantic ideas and logistical maneuvering, and you’re guaranteed to end up with an unforgettable memory for both of you.
And really, no matter what happens, it all becomes part of the proposal story you’ll both look back on with a mix of affection, humor and starry eyes.